Eyewitness to an Execution

ABC News correspondent Brian Rooney witnessed the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

Dec. 13, 2005

Tookie Williams was declared dead at 12:35 am. It took 36 minutes and 15 seconds from when he walked into the room to when he was dead. It took quite awhile, more than 20 minutes to insert the needles. All that time Williams was awake, aware and speaking to the attendants. After awhile he seemed agitated that it took so long. When the drugs started to flow he tried to keep his head up, as if to see his five friends who were there. When his chest and stomach stopped heaving, we watched and waited several minutes in complete silence until the curtain was a drawn on Tookie's body.

Dec. 12, 2005

Another briefing by Vernell Crittendon, prison spokesman. At 11 they will take all our personal property, pencils, notebooks, rings, telephones. Everything. "You will be given seven to eight lined sheets of paper and a number two pencil. You will be able to bring in a watch."

"The protocol inside the witness gallery is that you may not step down off your riser. No loud, open sobbing will be tolerated. You will be removed immediately and without discussion."

Time of death will be announced. "We will stand there approximately 30 seconds and watch the motionless remains."

Crittendon says Williams gave his last statement 40 minutes ago and we will not hear him speak.

Dec. 12, 2005

Hanging out in a press room inside prison gates. Accredited reporters are mixed with those who, like me, will witness the execution.

Williams did refuse a final meal. He had breakfast, including oatmeal, and has had mostly just water through the day. He's asked for cartons of milk. He's been alone in the death cell since 6 p.m. The witnesses were briefed by a prison psychologist who said, "You are about to witness something highly unusual. It's like no other room you've ever been in in your life." He said that if we are uncomfortable we are free to leave.

Dec. 12, 2005

Gone through first level security. Still have my Blackberry. I'm supposed to have a gold badge but they ran out. The took a white one and wrote "gold" on it. They also stamped my hand with ink seen only under black light. I asked if that was my exit key and they said no glow, no go. Meeting other reporter witnesses now. Not the only one who was volunteered for this.

Dec. 12, 2005

Helicopters are sweeping the hills with lights. SWAT teams are cruising in full combat gear. There are some heated arguments in the crowd; some people trying to shout down others. There are also some quiet discussions with differing points of view. I'm at the west gate now, preparing to go inside. I've called my wife to say goodnight. I won't be able to call out again until it's done.

Dec. 12, 2005

There were many speakers tonight, and some heated rhetoric. Some called the scheduled execution a "targeted assassination." Joan Baez is singing now. The song is "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Her voice carries, and it's a beautiful thing. The crowd is silent as she intones, "Comin' for to carry me home."

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